Venue: Civic Suite, North Warehouse, The Docks, Gloucester, GL1 2EP
Contact: Democratic and Electoral Services
Appointment of Chair and Vice-Chair
To confirm the appointment made at the Annual Meeting of Council of Councillor Field as Chair and Councillor Pullen as Vice-Chair of the Committee.
Councillors Field and Pullen were confirmed as Chair and Vice-Chair of the Committee respectively.
Declarations of Interest
To receive from Members, declarations of the existence of any disclosable pecuniary, or non-pecuniary, interests and the nature of those interests in relation to any agenda item. Please see Agenda notes.
Councillors Castle and Toleman declared an interest in Agenda Item 8 (Action Point Item) owing to their positions as trustees on the board of Aspire Leisure Trust.
Declaration of Party Whipping
To declare if any issues to be covered in the Agenda are under party whip.
There were no declarations of party whipping.
To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meetings held on Monday 24th April 2023 and Tuesday 9th May 2023.
RESOLVED – That the minutes of the meetings held on 24th April 2023 and 9th May 2023 were approved and signed as a correct record by the Chair.
Public Question Time (15 minutes)
To receive any questions from members of the public provided that a question does not relate to:
· Matters which are the subject of current or pending legal proceedings or
· Matters relating to employees or former employees of the Council or comments in respect of individual Council Officers.
To ask a question at this meeting, please submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org by 12 noon on Wednesday 31st May 2023 or telephone 01452 396203 for support.
There were no public questions.
Petitions and Deputations (15 minutes)
To receive any petitions and deputations provided that no such petition or deputation is in relation to:
· Matters relating to individual Council Officers, or
· Matters relating to current or pending legal proceedings.
There were no petitions nor deputations.
To note the outcome of action points arising from previous meetings.
7.1 Councillor Hilton noted that it was good for Members to have sight of the list of the organisations who were interviewed during the development of the Sports and Activity Strategy, however he observed that local sports clubs or associations were not included in the list. The Head of Culture advised that the list included organisations which were interviewed on a one-to-one basis. He advised Members that dozens of community sport organisations were consulted as part of the wider consultation process by Active Gloucestershire. He also noted that surveys had been sent to local sports clubs and governing bodies.
7.2 In response to additional comments from Councillor Hilton and the Chair, the Head of Culture confirmed that the organisations which took part in the wider consultation would be mentioned in the acknowledgements section of the final published Sports and Physical Activity Strategy. It was agreed that further information would also be circulated to Overview and Scrutiny Committee Members in the meantime.
7.3 In response to a query from Councillor Castle regarding the track between Plock Court and the University of Gloucestershire, the Head of Culture reiterated that Gloucestershire County Council was responsible for maintaining the footpath.
RESOLVED – That the Overview and Scrutiny Committee NOTE the updates.
To receive the latest version of the Committee’s work programme and the Council’s Forward Plan.
8.1 The Chair introduced the latest version of the Council Forward Plan and invited suggestions as to any items Members wished to add to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Work Programme.
8.2 Councillor Hilton noted that he had become of aware of some updates relating to the sale of the HKP Warehouses and asked that when a Cabinet Report on this matter was added to the Forward Plan, it be added to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Work Programme. It was agreed that this item be added to the Work Programme with a date to be determined.
1) That the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Work Programme be amended to reflect the above and
2) To NOTE the Work Programme.
To consider the report of the Cabinet Member for Performance and Resources seeking the adoption of the Community Asset Transfer (CAT) Policy, to establish a framework and a process to help ascertain if a community organisation proposal is viable and how the Council can consider supporting an approach where appropriate.
9.1 The Cabinet Member for Performance and Resources, Councillor Hannah Norman, introduced the report. She advised Members that the City Council was regularly approached by community organisations who wished to take on land or buildings to support their organisational aims, noting that there were currently at least 10 organisations hoping to engage the council into transferring an asset.
9.2 Councillor Norman explained that the Policy sought to establish a framework and a process to help ascertain if a proposal from a community organisation was viable, and how the Council could consider supporting an approach.
9.3 Referring to Section 3.8 of the report, Councillor Norman noted that the Community Asset Transfer (CAT) Policy would set expectations as to what the Council would need to consider an application, provide an indication of the process including timeframes, allow clubs to better understand the implications of their request to take on an asset and allow the council to better support community organisations through considering applications on an individual basis. She also commented that the policy would enable more transparency around decision making.
9.4 The Chair stated that the report was an interesting one and that he welcomed the CAT Policy. He reflected on the experience of an organisation in his ward and stated that any proposals to streamline the asset transfer process would be welcomed.
9.5 Councillor Pullen commented that he felt that the CAT Policy was a good document and that in his view the City Council should be encouraging asset transfers to community organisations. Referring to the assessment process outlined at section 8.1 of the Policy, Councillor Pullen expressed concern that some organisations might not have the expertise to compile a full business case and asked whether the Council would be able to offer any support to organisations to assist them with their bid development.
9.6 Councillor Norman advised that the assessment process was a guide for organisations to work towards and that some organisations may already have some actions in place. She confirmed that the City Council would offer advice and signpost where appropriate and noted that community groups may pick up expertise from other Community Interest Companies (CICs) and funding arms.
9.7 In response to additional comments from Councillor Pullen, Councillor Norman stated that the policy provided a framework to work towards and aimed to formalise work the City Council was already doing.
9.8 Councillor Sawyer reflected on her experience of assisting community organisations in her ward and queried whether the criteria narrative in Section 8 could be amended to explicitly state that the City Council could provide advice and guidance to community organisations during the assessment process. The Head of Finance and Resources confirmed that the council would be willing to assist any organisations struggling with jargon and agreed to amend the wording as suggested.
9.9 In response to a query from the Chair, Councillor Norman noted that the community organisation network in Gloucester was already an intertwined one, and that the Council would signpost appropriately.
9.10 Councillor Wilson ... view the full minutes text for item 9.
To consider the report of the Leader of the Council providing an update on the delivery of the activities as outlined in the Council Plan 2022-24 to build a greener, fairer, better Gloucester.
10.1 Councillor Norman introduced the report which provided an update on the progress made in delivering the activities as outlined in the Council Plan 2022-24 to build a greener, fairer, better Gloucester. She reminded Members that the Council Plan was approved unanimously by Council in January 2022, and that the Plan detailed planned projects and activities between 2022 and 2024 to achieve the ambition of improving the lives of everyone who lives in, works in and visits Gloucester.
10.2 Councillor Norman reminded Members of the three priorities in the Council Plan which set out how the council will achieve its vision, namely building greener, healthier and more inclusive communities, building a sustainable city of diverse culture and opportunity and building a socially responsible and empowering Council. She explained that the Plan set out 45 actions, split equally across these priorities and noted that delivery of these actions in the first year was encouraging. Councillor Norman referred Members to Appendix 1 of the report, which provided an update on each action.
10.3 The Chair asked whether a timeline for the draft Food Strategy was in place. Later in the meeting, the Managing Director confirmed that this strategy had been considered and approved by Cabinet.
10.4 In response to an additional query from the Chair regarding GL4, the Managing Director advised that GL4 was a community organisation based in Matson.
10.5 Councillor Wilson referred to the narrative around the plan to set up an in-house Home Improvement Agency and requested clarification as to whether progress on implementing this agency was delayed as a result of the cyber incident alone, or whether it had been delayed prior to the incident. The Housing Innovation Manager confirmed that the delays had been caused by the cyber incident, however as the recovery had progressed, the team now hoped to bring this action forward.
10.6 In response to a further query from Councillor Wilson regarding progress made on the Gloucester Digital Strategy, Councillor Norman noted that the Officers responsible for overseeing this strategy had been focusing on the recovery from the cyber incident. The Managing Director confirmed that ongoing conversations were taking place regarding a digital strategy for Gloucestershire, and Officers were deliberating on whether it might be sensible to wait for the outcome of the county-wide strategy discussions before progressing a refresh of the Gloucester Digital Strategy.
10.7 Councillor Pullen referred to the plan to deliver a quality leisure offer for residents and asked for further information as to the reasons behind the delay. Councillor Norman confirmed that this was connected to the Leisure and Culture Options Appraisal which had been approved by Cabinet back in 2022 to extend the current contract with the current provider for one year.
10.8 Councillor Pullen expressed concerns around the confirmation in the report that the reduction of the use of Bed and Breakfast accommodation for temporary accommodation by 20% was not expected. He asked whether the council expected to see an increase in the number of households needing temporary ... view the full minutes text for item 10.
To consider the report of the Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure presenting the 2023-28 Blackfriars Priory Business Plan and seeking support to enter the next lease agreement with English Heritage.
11.1 The Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure, Councillor Andrew Lewis, introduced the report and explained that a 5-year business plan had been produced to gain support for Gloucester City Council to continue to run Blackfriars Priory under a new lease agreement. He confirmed that the council’s preference was to negotiate a longer lease of up to 25 years with English Heritage in the future. Councillor Lewis referred Members to the mission and values outlined in the Blackfriars Business Plan at Appendix 1, and expressed the view that if a 25 year lease could be secured, Blackfriars could become the ‘jewel in the crown’ of Gloucester City. Councillor Lewis expressed his view that Blackfriars Priory was an excellent venue and thanked staff for their hard work.
11.2 The Chair commented that the Blackfriars Priory Business Plan was a good report. He queried whether the proposal was to expand into other activities over time or focus on weddings. Councillor Lewis responded that a balance needed to be found, as he felt that with such an historic building, it was important to retain a multi-use element for educational purposes. The Head of Culture further explained that under the current lease, a certain amount of public access needed to be provided.
11.3 In response to further comments from the Chair regarding acoustic challenges, Councillor Lewis agreed that Blackfriars Priory might not be the most appropriate venue for singing and although he was open to exploring the possibility of concerts, he would not want to change the appearance of the historic building.
11.4 Councillor Hilton observed that Blackfriars Priory was a fine historical building and commented that it was good to see the venue being used. He noted that some challenges facing the venue included lack of accommodation on-site, lack of storage, acoustics, and that the surroundings might not be seen as luxurious as other venues. He asked how these challenges could be overcome, and whether the Cabinet Member was confident that the 5-year plan would achieve the projected £47k profit by 2028. Councillor Lewis stated that he was confident that this figure could be achieved, highlighting that Blackfriars Priory was an award-winning venue. In response to Councillor Hilton’s concerns around on-site accommodation, Councillor Lewis noted that the Forum development, which when completed would include hotel accommodation, was nearby. Councillor Lewis advised the Committee that the venue had already taken in around £130k worth of bookings this year, and stated that he was confident of more bookings being made. He noted that the forecast suggested that the venue should be self-sufficient by 2028.
11.5 Councillor Hilton asked for the Cabinet Member’s views as to whether boutique accommodation in Phillpotts Warehouse would be more suitable due to it being within shorter walking distance. Councillor Lewis advised that the future use of Phillpotts Warehouse was at that stage unknown, however the Forum development was underway.
11.6 Councillor Wilson asked for further information around the rationale behind not pursuing a 25-year lease straight away. He wondered whether ... view the full minutes text for item 11.
To consider the report of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Task and Finish Group on damp and mould in Gloucester’s rented accommodation.
12.1 As Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Task and Finish Group on damp and mould in Gloucester’s rented accommodation, Councillor Conder introduced the report and provided Members with an overview of the project. She reminded Members that the Task and Finish Group was commissioned by the Committee back in January 2023, following the publication of a coroner’s report in November 2022 linking the death of a two-year old child in Rochdale to exposure to mould in his home environment.
12.2 Councillor Conder confirmed that the Task and Finish Group had met regularly between February and May 2023 and had held evidence sessions with Directors and Senior Managers of several local Registered Social Housing Providers, local voluntary advice agencies and the City Council’s Private Sector Housing Team. She advised Members that the full findings of the Task and Finish Group were outlined in Appendix 1 of the report, which included summaries of the sessions, conclusions, and recommendations.
12.3 The Chair commented that the Task and Finish Group deserved credit for their report and evidence gathering. He felt that the recommendations were sensible, however in relation to Recommendation 6, he suggested adding reference to circulating the information document via the council’s social media channels.
12.4 Councillor Wilson referred to the transfer of housing stock and asked whether the stock was of decent home standard. The Housing Innovation Manager reminded the Committee that the Task and Finish Group investigation and report was Member-led. He noted that he was aware of a small number of properties with problems however these tended to be linked to the age of the properties, with particular issues amongst homes built during the 1960s and 1970s. In relation to the broader housing stock, he noted that properties tended to be in reasonably good condition.
12.5 In respect of Recommendation 1, Councillor Wilson queried whether the City Council had sufficient resources to implement a landlord accreditation scheme. The Housing Innovation Manager noted that this had not been a priority in the past, however the idea would be to provide responsible landlords with accreditation confirming that they were good landlords. Councillor Conder confirmed that despite the evidence gathering of the Task and Finish Group, there was still limited information on the private rented sector as there was currently no national regulation in this area.
12.6 Councillor Pullen commented that the enquiry had been fascinating and thanked the Officers, Social Housing Providers and the local voluntary advice agencies who had taken part and supported the project. He stated that Task and Finish Group Members had learnt that in the past, damp and mould growth was more likely to have put down to a lifestyle issue. He noted that the project had confirmed that the issue was far more complex, with the condition of properties being a major factor. He also outlined that it had been made evident to Task and Finish Group Members that there was a correlation between damp and mould growth and the rising cost of living, as ... view the full minutes text for item 12.
Date of Next Meeting
Monday 3rd July 2023 at 6.30pm in Civic Suite, North Warehouse.
Monday 3rd July 2023.